An analysis by my son-in-law, great friend, former Egyptian Juniors player, and astute observer of tennis. As follows in his words:
Roger Federer has evolved to become a seemingly ageless great player–the best ever–this way:
1. Federer is now hitting half volleys routinely in most long rallies. Although his forehand is not as good as it once was in 2004-07, the fact that he hits the ball early (now from both wings) is greatly constraining his opponents’ reaction times and putting them on the defensive. Moreover, his own defensive cross court forehand on the stretch causes serious havoc.
2. Federer can still maintain a relentless assault, a barrage of lethal shots, owing to his remarkable fitness and skill, and he can do so for two-three hours. His brilliant aggressive and artistic game is far less taxing on the body than the styles, very disparate, of his two main rivals, Nadal and Djokovic. Federer hits deep, with angles, with pace, with reduced pace, and employs superb drop shots and lobs as well as attacking the net, together with even more variety-of-play seen, for example, in his variety in serving. The full deadly arsenal of classic tennis shots, each stroke difficult to master, is at his disposal moreso than with his competitors.
3. Especially dominating is the great Federer serve, his most reliable weapon, to be deployed with ease as needed. Federer’s serve is accurately placed with pinpoint precision. With or without high pace, it is difficult to handle for the most skilled returners. It has become obvious that his serve is one of the best ever.
4. Federer has substantially improved his always fine return game. He is returning early, deep, and with authority from both sides, allowing him to control points.
5. Finally, Federer has remarkable mental strength and a superb strategic sense. He is a fighter just like Djokovic and Nadal (not less so, as some have argued). Federer has that “extra gear,” and he is untouchable when he shifts to that gear. In sum, Federer has the stylistic variety to tailor his game to master that of his opponent.
The upshot of these five points? Certainly what Federer has now accomplished–his record–is unparalleled in tennis. He has won twenty majors. Is he not in the conversation as to the finest athlete of all time?